It's never long before the next news story appears about driverless cars. Many people like the idea that their own car could drive them home after a long day or night out, but what if that driverless car was a taxi or minicab? Human drivers already rely extensively on technology, such as GPS, and even parking and lane assist features. Taxi and private hire fleets already employ sophisticated dispatch systems to manage bookings and allocate vehicles, so is full vehicle automation simply the logical next step? Are "robotaxis" the future?
Professional drivers deserve fair compensation for their work, plus the opportunity to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Automated virtual drivers, with no such concerns, could operate continuously without the need for breaks or compensation. An automated driverless taxi or minicab service could therefore provide greater vehicle availability round the clock at a lower cost; clearly an appealing prospect for the fare-paying passenger.
Fleets of automated taxis could continuously interact to optimise routes and coordinate their locations, potentially reducing traffic congestion and improving journey times. Automated vehicles could be managed to optimise their fuel efficiency, delivering environmental benefits as well as cost savings for the taxi or minicab operator. With enhanced safety sensors and algorithms, driverless taxis may be better at avoiding accidents than human drivers, making roads safer for everyone.
Many passengers enjoy the company of their driver for the short duration of their journey. A competent taxi or minicab driver does not just control the vehicle, they also gauge the perfect level of conversation to keep their passenger comfortable. This can vary from keeping silent for the whole trip or exchanging non-stop jokes and lively banter. Both passenger and driver can enjoy these interactions. Could automation ever replicate this?
What about luggage? A courteous driver will not hesitate to assist their passenger with their luggage at both pick-up and drop-off. How could an automated vehicle ever do this, if the only human present is the passenger?
The factors to consider are many and complex. Taking a taxi or minicab is not just about getting from A to B, it is about the full experience.